Monday was a typical day for South Jersey students, but behind the scenes local school officials, staff and police monitored security plans and student behavior in response to Friday's shooting in a Newtown Connecticut school.
Superintendents contacted said procedures already in place allowed them to quickly respond beginning as early as Friday afternoon. They briefed staff and sent reminders to parents about the school's security procedures, and advice on how to respond if their children asked questions.
But they also knew that the Sandy Hook School followed many of the same security procedures and there would be a call to do more.
"It's no longer really just about the response," said Richard Bozza, executive director of the New Jersey Association of School Administrators. "We've got that covered. Now the question is how we can anticipate it."
All schools in New Jersey are required to do monthly "disaster" or "lockdown" drills that cover incidents including an active shooter.
Galloway Township school superintendent Annette Giaquinto said she received several calls from parents Monday, with questions and thanks for information she had e-mailed home and posted on the school web site and Facebook page.
One parent posted she had asked her six-year-old if he knew what to do, and he told her he should go in the bathroom, be very, very quiet, and not cry.
"Even though that was only one child, it is good to know that the drills we practice are understood and remembered," Giaquinto said in an e-mail.
Procedures such as locked doors that require visitors to be buzzed into the building are also the norm in schools today. This week's schedule includes many holiday events, and parents were asked to be patient if they are screened a bit more carefully.
Several area schools did have a stronger police presence today, and some will continue that presence through the end of the week when the holiday vacation begins. Cape May City parents can expect to see some Coast Guard personnel on at the school for the holiday concert Tuesday.
Local officials said the two major future topics are whether armed security should be placed in every school, and whether mental health issues should get more attention, especially for people no longer in school.
John White, a forensic psychologist and professor at Richard Stockton College said there are cultural and policy issues that must be addressed to try to prevent future shootings.
"For some, firing a gun gives them a sense of power and control that they do not feel they have in their lives," he said.
White also believes there is a tremendous void in mental health services for children and young adults.
"We have to look at revamping the mental health system," he said. "But schools themselves are not mental health resources. They can help identify a problem, but some students will need help beyond the school and intensive treatment they are not now getting."
Robert James, police chief for Northfield and Linwood had officers in schools Monday to monitor security procedures and look for vulnerabilities. He said he would expect many school officials to now discuss having armed security in every school.
"But it is a delicate balance," he said. "We want the schools to be safe, but we don't want to turn our schools into prisons."
Greater Egg Harbor Regional High School has armed school resource officers in its three high schools, Oakcrest, Absegami and Cedar Creek. There was also a police presence at the schools today at arrival and dismissal time, a signal to parents that the district was sensitive to parental concerns.
Superintendent Steve Ciccariello said high schools are large buildings with multiple exits that are monitored with cameras, and while they have procedures in place, any new incident is a time to review and see what can be learned.
"Unfortunately this is not the first time something like this has happened," Ciccariello said. "But we have learned a lot since (school shootings) in Columbine. It's been an evolution."
Bozza said they would not encourage armed security in all schools, or allowing teachers or principals to carry guns.
"It's tough enough to be a teacher without having to be law enforcement as well," he said. "Do we really want our principals walking around with guns?"
Schools remain one of the safest places for children, something educators said both parents and students should remember. And for most students, Monday was just another school day.
"I walked around, and the kids were not talking about it," Brigantine school superintendent Robert Previti said. "They're talking about the Christmas break and if there's a half-day of school on Friday. And that's how it should be."